• Ben Szalinski
    DEC 19, 2023


    Limits off in 20th Senate Democratic primary as Toro, Guzman distancing themselves in fundraising race  

    From left to right: Geary Yonker, Dr. Dave Nayak, Graciela Guzman, and Sen. Natalie Toro (D-Chicago).  

    A crowded Democratic primary in the 20th Senate District is emerging with Sen. Natalie Toro (D-Chicago) and opponent Graciela Guzman distancing themselves from their opponents in the fundraising race with the help of big financial backers.   

    But new self-funding efforts by Dr. Dave Nayak lifted contribution limits in the race on Monday, setting the stage for an even more expensive race.  

    Toro and Guzman have long been the top two competitors in the district that stretches from Central Avenue to Ashland Avenue and Armitage Avenue to Argyle Street. Toro is a former Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teacher while Guzman currently works as an organizer for the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). The race also features Nayak, a local doctor and business owner, and Geary Yonker, a former account manager at WBEZ. 

    The race has been hotly contested between Toro and Guzman since Toro was appointed to the seat in July despite a strong progressive backing for Guzman. Since then, supporters of each woman have boosted their campaign accounts as Toro attempts to defend her seat while Guzman seeks retribution for what many viewed as a snubbed appointment. Both candidates have easily distanced themselves from their competitors.   

    Toro has virtually no legislative record to run on aside from a handful of mostly non-controversial votes during veto sessions. Despite only serving half a year in office, she still holds the incumbency financial advantage with the backing of the Senate Democrats and caucus leader President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).   

    Toro closed September reporting $72,668 in her campaign account. Since then, she has raised $414,505 in reportable contributions of $1,000 or more.   

    Most of her fundraising success has been boosted by the ISDF account — the campaign arm of the Senate Democratic caucus. That committee gave her a $150,000 contribution plus another $11,500 for media and photography production.   

    Harmon is also staying in her corner and used his two campaign accounts for his Senate district and State Central Committee district to donate a combined $137,000. Toro has also received healthy contributions from the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois and Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Aurora). Subtracting Harmon and the ISDF’s support, Toro has raised about $117,000 from other sources — which itself tops Guzman.   

    Guzman has raised $75,155 in reportable contributions since Oct. 1. Her largest backer has been her own employer, the Chicago Teachers Union. Though Toro was a member of the CTU during her own career, the union has opted to support a progressive organizer — who was hired by the union after she failed to win the Senate appointment — rather than a member of their union. Guzman has built a career in political organizing, especially for healthcare causes, and has not worked for CPS but is a 2007 graduate of the school district.   

    CTU has contributed $20,000 to Guzman’s campaign plus $16,655 for polling. Guzman has also received contributions from fellow progressives including Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago), Chicago Ald. Jessie Fuentes (26), and Ald. Rossana Rodriguez’s (33) committeeperson campaign fund.   

    Though Guzman and Toro have claimed most of the headlines and contributions, Nayak is trying to make headway and made a decision Monday that will allow the primary race to get significantly more expensive. Nayak filed a notice of self-funding on Monday that lifts contribution limits in the race. He also gave himself an additional $15,000, bringing the total of his personal loans to $114,900.   

    Illinois law limits fundraising in races when a candidate has not contributed more than $100,000 to their own campaign. But with Nayak’s contribution Monday, all fundraising limits in the race are off, which now allows Harmon and the ISDF to pour more money into Toro’s account.    

    Outside putting his own money into the race, Nayak has reported raising $13,250 this quarter.  

    Yonker has not reported any reportable contributions this quarter and had just $1,700 in his campaign account at the end of September.  

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